Why did a jury of seven US military officers blast the CIA for “torture performed by the most abusive regimes in modern history”?

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J. Wells Dixon, a senior attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights Photo courtesy of J. Wells Dixon.

For the first time since the Central Intelligence Agency began its post-9-11 torture operations, Americans got a glimpse into the heinous acts committed in their name last week. At the military court hearing of Majid Khan, the former Guantanamo Bay detainee delivered shocking testimony to a jury made up of high-ranking military officials in which he detailed years of waterboarding, rape, forced feedings, and numerous other forms of physical and psychological torture at the hands of the CIA. Khan, a 41-year-old Pakistani man,  became an Al Qaeda operative in the early 2000s after graduating high school in Baltimore, Maryland, and tragically losing his mother. After being detained by the CIA in 2003, he was held for three horrific years at CIA black sites, after which he was transferred to Guantanamo Bay where his torture continued. 

Although the U.S. public learned some details regarding the CIA torture program established after the 2001 attacks in the Senate Intelligence Committee’s 2014 report, much of the more than 6,700 pages were either never released or heavily redacted. Khan’s detailed testimony, however, puts a face to one of the many victims of CIA torture and highlights just how brutal and inhumane the agency’s actions were. The New York Times reports that Khan “spoke about dungeon-like conditions, humiliating stretches of nudity with only a hood on his head, sometimes while his arms were chained in ways that made sleep impossible, and being nearly drowned intentionally in icy cold water in tubs at two sites, once while a CIA interrogator counted down from 10 before water was poured into his nose and mouth.” 

On this week’s episode of “Scheer Intelligence,” Khan’s lawyer J. Wells Dixon, a senior attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights, joins Robert Scheer to discuss the implications of Khan’s testimony, which led the jury to describe his torture--which was unrefuted by the CIA--as “a stain on the moral fiber of America.” 

“The absolutely needs to be accountability [for CIA torture],” Dixon tells Scheer. “There is no question that [the CIA’s actions] constitute torture and there’s no question that torture is universally prohibited in all circumstances. The only open question is whether anyone will be held to account?” 

Listen to the full conversation between Dixon and Scheer as they discuss the details of Khan’s case and the total lack of accountability on CIA torture thus far. You can also read Khan’s full heartbreaking testimony here



Joshua Scheer